* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.3 pct, hits 1-1/2 wk high
* Potential U.S.-led strike on Syria keep market on edge
* Investors await ECB Draghi's press conference
* Telecom Italia surges on renewed M&A speculation
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Sept 5 European stocks inched higher
around midday on Thursday, although trading was choppy as
investors avoided taking big bets before ECB chief Mario
Draghi's press conference.
The European Central Bank is seen keeping interest rates on
hold, with the decision due at 1145 GMT, and investors will
focus on Draghi's briefing and whether he will try to dampen
expectations of an interest rate rise.
European money market rates have recently risen on strong
economic data and anticipation of the U.S. Federal Reserve
scaling back its quantitative easing programme.
At 1037 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top
European shares was up 0.3 percent at 1,219.21 points, after
hitting its highest level since Aug. 26.
"People are waiting for cues from the central banks, and
there is just no real trend on the market at the moment," said
Guillaume Dumans, co-head of research firm 2Bremans.
"There are always good intraday levels, but this is for
short-term tactical moves and we recommend staying liquid."
The market continued to find support in a recent wave of
M&A, with Telecom Italia surging 5.6 percent on
renewed deal speculation.
Italian daily la Repubblica reported on Thursday that
Executive Chairman Franco Bernabe plans to propose to the board
a reserved capital increase to bring in a new investor, while MF
daily mentioned a number of options including a possible offer
by AT&T and a merger with Spain's Telefonica
The FTSEurofirst 300 is up 10 percent since late June,
although the index has lost steam in the past two weeks as
concerns over Syria and Fed policy prompted investors to book
Talks on how to deal with Syria's civil war were likely to
dominate the G20 meeting of the world's major nations in Russia
Despite the risks seen for equities in the short term,
Christophe Jaubert, CIO hedge fund strategies at Rothschild HDF
Investment Solutions, sees more room on the upside in the medium
"Equities is the best asset class at the moment. U.S. stocks
are starting to trade a bit above 'fair value' however, but
European shares are definitely attractive," he said.
"All in all, fundamentals are back in the spotlight and
that's what will drive the market, instead of the big macro
fears of the past few years. Stock pickers thrive again."